“When I’m a grown-up, can we be friends?”
Spoken like a true six-year-old. Comical in a sense but at the same time very telling. Have you ever stopped to see what it is that our kids are trying to figure out when they ask these questions? The funny thing is that they are speaking loud and clear. “I want a relationship.”
It is an innate feeling to want to be accepted. We all seek out people that accept us for who we are and we look for people that like the same things as us. It’s how we work. It’s how we function on a regular basis. We find people that make us feel important and we search for people to connect with. We all do it!
In the same way, our students are looking to us for a relationship. They want to know that we are not only HEARING them but we are LISTENING to them. This is the same for all ages. Whether you teach 1st grade, high school or anything in-between, all students in a way are seeking out a relationship with someone that can encourage them and pour into them.
Granted, it is much easier to pour into kids that are “easy” to love. However, I’m sure that you have noticed that the children that are the most difficult to love are the ones that need you the most. Those are the kids that are crying out for attention and may give you the hardest time. It may be the student that gets angry easily. It may be the student that avoids peer interaction at all costs. It may be the student that quietly sticks to himself at recess. Whatever the extreme, there are children in your classroom that are crying out for a relationship with you. They are looking to you to make the connection. It takes effort. It takes time. Most of all, it takes a passion inside of you that says, “I’m going to help change this child’s life!”
My class often starts the day by having a morning meeting. We all sit in a circle and I make sure that all of the students know the basic rules before beginning.
- Only share when it is your turn.
- Look each other in the eye when someone is speaking.
- Appreciate what each person has to say.
After reviewing the rules, we all take turns sharing something that is very important to us. It may be what is going to happen over the weekend. It may be what we are excited about on that day. It’s an opportunity to share with the whole class what we love or dislike.
Through this process, I am able to learn more about each child. After a few of these morning meetings, you really start to understand what makes each of these kids unique. While teaching, you remember the child that plays football over the weekends. You remember which child loves animals and has a pet snake at home. You remember all of the fun facts that they tell you. You figure out which kids have that hilarious laugh. You figure out what makes them smile and what makes them concerned.
As awesome as it is to remember these cool facts about each child, I think that the part of morning meeting I love the most is that it allows me to find the kids that need a little extra in their relationship with the teacher. It shows you which kids are insecure. It shows which kids do not have a lot to smile about. It shows which kids do not have the best home-life. These things are all critical when developing a relationship with your students. You need to know where they are coming from and what it is that they are seeking.
I would not trade that 5-10 minutes in the morning for anything. It’s the time where my students become a family. It is when they encourage each other. A community is built through the conscious decision to take a moment each morning to show each person in our classroom that we WANT to know what is going on in their life.
When reflecting on my student’s question, “When I’m a grown-up, can we be friends?”, I know that every day I spend with these kids, I’m beginning a life-long relationship with them. I’m letting them know that no matter where they go in life or what they end up doing, I’ll always be here rooting for them and believing in them!
So, I would like to challenge you today to really take some time to think about the students that sit in front of you every day. Some of them may sit with a smile, some of them may sit with a frown but all of them sit wanting to know more about you and if you will still care about them tomorrow. Think it over. You may be the only person in their life that they can count on day in and day out. You may be the first person in their life that has ever stayed. They are counting on you to be there. Even if they do not ask. They want to know.
“When I’m a grown-up, can we be friends?”
Remember that what they are really asking is, “Are you someone that will always invest in me and can I count on you to build a relationship with me?” So I ask you, in what way will you choose to build a relationship with your kids today?by